Chick Trip Planning 3 – Top 5 London Hotels

It seems like it should be easy to find a hotel I like, which fits my needs and falls into my budget, but I found it to be a challenge…that became a time-consuming obsession!  
 
 http://mappery.com/map-of/London-Underground-Transportation-Map
 

 

 

In London, it almost doesn’t matter if you’re not smack dab in the city center, as long as there’s a tube stop (London Underground – their subway system) nearby. So I checked the ones I liked on a map to make sure I wasn’t booking us too far from easy mobility. And then I checked the reviews at TripAdvisor.com

I looked at about 40 hotels, according to my notes, but I suspect I looked at more and just decided not to keep notes on many more than that.

Starting with Price
The rationale for an inexpensive hotel is that we’d be so busy sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere, we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room. So I started the search at Hostel World.com, because a well-traveled friend assured me it includes hotels and B&Bs as well as hostels and the reviews are spot-on. It was, indeed, a great resource for affordable hotels. She also suggested EasyHotel.com  –  for just the basics.  Other friends suggested Premiere Inn and Holiday Inn hotels. 

Premiere Inn London Eye

BUT I found I wanted someplace a little bit special. This was going to be my friend’s first trip outside of the U.S. and I wanted her to feel like she was in London.  We’re also the kind of girls who like to nap or perhaps sleep in and get a slow, languid start, so we’d probably spend more time in our hotel than most. 

Sense of Style
Therefore, I did a search for “unique, boutique hotels in London” and found Secret Places.com.  It wasn’t as easy to use as some sites, but had lovely suggestions.  Unfortunately, most of these were either outside of our price range ($200 or under) OR too far away from public transport options. Still, I fell in love with the Lime Tree Hotel and hold out hope that it works out for a future visit. 

Lime Tree Hotel

Once I had fallen in love with a hotel that had a sense of design that felt good, it was impossible to go back. I wanted to be excited about where we stayed.  The Hotel Guru had some nice choices as did Epoque Hotels, but they either didn’t have rooms with 2 beds available (called Twins) for our travel dates, or were too far away from tube stops. If they had, we might be staying at one of these:

Tophams Hotel

 

• The warm and cute Tophams Hotel 

• The lovely New Linden

New Linden

• The very hip Hoxton Hotel which periodically offers a £1 sale.

Finally, it was down to sharing a bed at the clean, modern, Euston Square Hotel or not sharing a bed at the Hesperia London Victoria, which had everything we needed and a great location too.  

Overall, I found that Agoda.com and Expedia had good rates and were easy sites to use in the search, which was at times, completely overwhelming.

So, after much research, here are my top 5 London Hotel recommendations:

1. The Hesperia London Victoria – wins for great price, great amenities and great location.  
2. Tophams Hotel –  Very cute, good price and location.
3. The New Linden – Nice, with good rates and location.
4. The Hoxton – very cool, but a bit far away.
5. Lime Tree Hotel – far away but so lovely!

I’ll report back when I’ve actually been to London and experienced the room for myself!

2 Chicks Planning a Trip – Part 1

For my 40th birthday, I chose to celebrate with travel, and went to Cambodia to explore the Angkor Wat temples.  So now that my good friend is about to turn 40, I thought she should do the same.  But unlike me she hasn’t traveled beyond North America, so I started thinking of places she really ought to see. Then I thought I’d share the process with all of you! So here are the first few steps: imagining the ideal, researching the costs, and finding a way (financially).
STEP 1 – IMAGINING THE IDEAL
For her, I chose these, from the most ideal to the extremely acceptable:
  
• Europe – There was a time when all well-bred and educated young people took a trip to “the Continent” –especially France and Italy. It was known as “the grand tour”.  While I did the tour just after graduating from college when I was 23 (part of my 2nd trip around the world, thanks to travel-loving parents), I think it might be time she completes her education. 

 • England – Both of us being Jane Austen fans with a general appreciation for literary history, we could do a tour of locations from Jane Austen novels and films and also visit King Arthur’s Tintagel. She also shares my love for the modern day romantic comedies of Richard Curtis—Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. We could do a tour of those locations. 
 
• New York – We’re both fans of musical theater, and quite a bit of America’s literary, film and social history has taken place there.  It’s one of the world’s greatest cities and everyone should visit at least once. Plus we both have When Harry Met Sally memorized, (she orders food like Sally does too!) so we might need to pretend we’re in it.
 
• New Orleans – This city is a beautiful, living piece of Spanish and French colonial history, as well as some of the more colorful parts of America’s backstory—Pirates, Riverboats, Plantations, Swamps, and Ghosts!  (I fell in love with it because I’m an Anne Rice fan.)

STEP 2 – RESEARCHING THE COSTS

Airfare– it’s the biggest piece of the cost of travel, followed closely by accommodation.  But you gotta get there before you need a place to stay. 

• Online Searching – I used to be able to get significantly cheaper airfare from Lowestravel.com, but now they have pretty much the same airfare options as Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Flights, or Orbitz.  Searching through TripAdvisor.com lets you compare, and is a good way to keep track of your searches for hotel as well.

• Choosing Dates – Keep in mind that travel costs will vary depending on the season and the day you want to travel.  Her birthday is actually in the first week of June, but I found if I used a date at the middle to end of May, the airfare dropped by about $300.  Also, fares tend to be cheaper when they’re on a weekday. It is supply and demand in action – more people want to fly on weekends, so they can charge more for the privilege.

Other Transportation –  
 
• If we were going to travel around England, I would rent a car, or maybe get a BritRail Pass. 
• If we’re going to Europe, we’d need to get across the channel from the UK, and around Paris and Rome.
So I did some basic research on all the options. 
• Car rental/Britrail Pass – A search for “car rental in London” brought up familiar U.S. chains Hertz and Enterprise.  It looks like $200-$250 for a week. A Britrail pass costs $249 for a week.  So the cost is about the same, we’d have to weigh the pros and cons of carrying our luggage and walking from train stations.  We’d probably rent a car.  We’re American after all – and born & bred Los Angelenos at that.  We love our cars!

• Ferry/Eurail – To cross the channel via ferry from Dover to Calais is actually less expensive if you have a car for some reason.  We could rent a car in England and drive to Paris.  It’s £39 with a car and £59 without. I usually just double that to estimate the cost in dollars.  But to be specific, I go to xe.com’s universal currency converter— £39 = $63, £59 is $95.

I’ll have to check how long it would take to drive to Paris from London.  I’ve driven in both England and France before, and I’m used to driving on the other side of the car and other side of the road (from the US perspective) from living in Sri Lanka. 

A Eurail pass for 2 countries within 4 to 10 days is advertised as “from $169” – but upon closer inspection, for adults 26 or older, a 2nd class saver ticket for France and Italy is $275 per person.

STEP 3 – FINDING THE WAY (FINANCIALLY)
 
It has been my experience that once I know how much money I need to create the trip I want, the rest sort of falls into place somehow.  So I never wait until I have enough money saved up.  I start planning the trip first, and then find ways to make it happen.  This is how The Law of Attraction works!  (Check out my articles on The Power of Thoughts & Goal Setting.)

So many people put off doing the things they want to do in life until they have enough money, but the money always gets spent somehow until they’re too old to enjoy it when they’ve got it. 

Within days, she and I had found the money.  Hers came from a bunch of people who love her. They all chipped in to give her a great 40th birthday present when I suggested my plan.  Mine will come from a creative use of available discounts, frequent flier miles, and accumulated credit card points.  Neither of us will need to go into debt to pay for this trip! 

So it’s been decided, she can take a week off of work without negatively impacting her budget. We’ll meet in London (she’s flying from LAX, I’m flying from Sri Lanka), and do 2 days in London, 2 days in Paris and 2 days in Rome.  
Next time we’ll get into the serious planning!

All images from http://www.zazzle.com/vintage+postcards — buy them as prints, t-shirts, mugs, etc!